India's is the most heavily mythologized of civilizations; the mythology revealed in its literature is threefold. There is, first of all, that of Aryan India which has connections with the mythologies of Persia, Greece, and Italy: because we know it through the Vedic Hymns (shaped between 1200 and 800 B.C.), we name it the Vedic mythology. Then comes a mythology which nominally arises out of the Vedas but which is quite different in idea and outlook: this is the Brāhmanical, the living mythology of India, revealed to us in the enormous epics which were shaped about the fourth century B.C., the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata. Buddhism, a movement which originally aimed at simplifying the Brāhmanical system, added new entities to the country's mythology: out of it came a mythology connected with beings who incarnate from period to period in order to redeem mankind: the stories of these incarnations and of the efforts of the Buddhas-to-be to attain enlightenment are its subjects; connected with it are cycles of animal-stories which tell of the incarnations of Buddha in animal forms. Unlike Persia, unlike Europe, India never
had her mythology displaced by movements such as Zoroastrianism or Christianity.
India, in respect to her mythology, is like a watershed: there systems which take us to look in opposite directions are close to each other. We have Dyaus Pitar, the Sky Father, who is the same as Zeus and Iuppiter; with him we have Indra, the Storm God, Agni, the Fire God, and the Celestial Twin Horsemen, who are similar to the divinities in European mythology; we have also Yama who assembles the dead, the Yima of old Persia mythology who becomes the Jamshīd of mytho-romance: we are destined to meet this divinity in the Far East where he has become the god of the dead, Emma, in Buddhist Japan. This, the Vedic, was the mythology of a simple-minded, agricultural, cattle-raising people. Then comes the Brāhmanical, which arises out of philosophical ideas: time and space are conceived of in dimensions that are frightening to one of European culture; there are unnumbered worlds, unnumbered periods of creation; the gods are immortal, but they are destined to be absorbed in the absorption of the universe at the end of a cosmic cycle. The Brāhmanical mythology as presented in the epics is a very rich one. Four stories in this collection are taken from it: the Churning of the Ocean and the Birth of the Ganges from the Rāmāyana, Savītiī and the God of the Dead and Damayantī's Choice from the Mahābhārata. The story of Gotama's Attainment is out of Buddhist mythology, and is one of the scriptural stories of the Buddha who, historically, was Prince Siddhāratha who lived in the fifth century B.C. In the early Vedas the story-material is meagre: these Indian hymns are voluminous as compared with the Homeric Hymns, but none of them give us, as most of the Homeric Hymns do, a consecutive story. The Heavenly Nymph and her Mortal Husband is told from the only extended statement in the hymns. The story is also told in later literature. But in the later version the atmosphere has been changed. In the Vedas the Apsarases are nymphs who have something austere about them; in later literature they are types of voluptuousness. An attempt has been made to get the atmosphere of the early Aryan world in the retelling of the story, and to reveal the simple forms of the Vedic gods. It is of interest to note that these gods, the devas, become in Persia, after the Zoroastrian movement,
the daēvas who are demons. Later, these fallen daēvas become the divs, or demonic beings, of the Arabian story-tellers.